Many individuals see pilates and think; “they barely move or the movements which are done are so EASY, what is actually working?”. 

That right there is the beauty of pilates that even the slightest form of movements hold great benefits reminding us that every little move we make, a certain muscle is being activated, yes it is not a HITT class or a weight training class but you sweat just like you do in those classes – and even more at times. 

The exercises in pilates hold great benefits which lie deeper than just the major muscle groups. Pilates targets intrinsic muscles which affect your posture and balance.

These are 3 fundamental exercises found in pilates which can be seen as basic pilates exercises, but they harness remarkable benefits. These exercises are often prescribed in exercise rehabilatation from the word go. 

Pelvic curl: 

One of the first exercises you will learn in your pilates classes is a pelvic curl also known as bridging. It is one of the foundational exercises of pilates, as it forms the basis for many progressions and variations. It is a fairly simple exercise, but when completed correctly it can be very challenging especially for beginners. 

The Pelvic Curl teaches clients how to recruit their core muscles correctly, how to articulate the spine (mobilize) and even how to mobilize the pelvis. 


  • Helps clients develop body awareness and teaches coordination of the breath.
  • Improves spinal articulation (mobilizes the spine). 
  • Activating and strengthening the hamstrings and abdominals.
  • Strengthens the glutes. 
  • Reduces back pain. 

Recommended for:

  • It is a great exercise for clients with a weak core, tight back extensors, tight hip flexors or just general stiffness. 
  • Teaching spinal articulation. 
  • It is great for warming up and stretching the back and waking up the legs and abdominals. 
  • Providing great feedback for the Pilates Instructor in terms of where the clients’ body is at on the day.

Toe taps: 

The toe taps are another great fundamental exercise in pilates which houses various progressions and can easily be combined with other exercises making the exercise difficult or easier. 

In this exercise the legs can be in a raised position at 90 degrees, the legs are taken down towards the floor, tapping the toes on the floor – alternating legs. The toe taps activates stabilizing muscles deep in your core, specifically the transverse abdominis, the pelvic floor and the rectus abdominis. 


  • Strengthens the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. 
  • It teaches stability in the lower back and pelvic area. 
  • It encourages awareness and teaches activation of the correct muscles and how to apply energy correctly in terms of the flow of the exercise. It is important to move the leg from the hip and to prevent any knee flexion during movement. 
  • Contributes to shaping the legs. Stronger leg muscles also support the back and the hips.
  • Calories are burnt. 
  • Shapes and tones the abdominal muscles reducing belly fat.


Recommended for: 

  • Provides gentle support for the lower back with no added pressure which is good for lower back pain problems – if executed correctly. 
  • Good for athletes who wish to strengthen their core muscles and endurance. 
  • Excellent for postnatal recovery to help with regaining Pelvic floor strength. It is important for this exercise to be done under professional supervision and from about 6 months after giving birth. This exercise can however be adapted for people with a weak core.
  • Good for kids and teens to encourage endurance, balance, stability, and power with awareness.


Also known as Swimming on all fours, Superman or Bird Dog. This is an exercise which is taught a lot in clinical studios, and is very famous for core strength, stability and back rehabilitation. 

This exercise is aimed at training good pelvic and lumbar spine control as well as scapulothoracic joint (shoulder blade region) stability in a weight bearing position.

It is a full body exercise which engages all the muscles. It involves a symphony of muscles working together in a highly co-ordinated way to affect the desired movement and contributes to the improvement of posture. 


  • It works a large group of muscles all at once which includes the gluteus maximus, trapezius of the upper back, deltoids of the shoulders. Muscles for stabilizing such as the hamstrings, serratus anterior and the abdominal muscles working as antagonists to the erector spinae (back muscles). 
  • Improves one’s posture. 
  • Strengthens the lower back. 
  • Prevents injury. 
  • Reduces back pain. 
  • Improves balance and co-ordination. 

Recommended for: 

  • Rehabilitation of the back after injury or chronic lower back pain. It is good for building low back function, as it engages both the core and back muscles at the same time.
  • This is a great exercise for swimmers or sports players requiring overhead activity.
  • During all these exercises one also practices breathing patterns which co-incides with muscle action to provide deeper muscle recruitment. Breath is also calming for the mind, bringing out awareness which allows one to practice being present and various other principles which impacts one’s life positively. 

These 3 Pilates exercises are just a drop in the ocean. Pilates is filled with great exercises which can benefit you physically, emotionally and mentally. 

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